Party Wall Guidance

Guidance on the Party Wall Act from experienced RICS Party Wall Surveyors working throughout London and the South East.

If you have a question regarding a party wall matter, or would like to speak to a surveyor, do not hesitate to get in touch for free impartial advice.

Call 020 7112 8877, or contact us to speak to a party wall surveyor.

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Guidance on the Party Wall etc. Act 1996

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (“the Act”) provides a framework for preventing or resolving disputes relating to party walls, party structures, boundary walls, and excavations near neighbouring buildings.

Where a building owner intends to carry out works which fall under the Act they must serve notice on the adjoining owner(s) that is/are affected by the works.

In this guide, we will be covering the key features of the Act, including the rights and obligations of the parties involved.

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What is the purpose of the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall Act gives owners of lands and buildings the right to undertake certain types of works subject to the service of a valid party wall notice. Failure to do this can lead to injunctions to prevent the work from proceeding.

In some cases, the types of work covered by the Act involve a shared wall or structure, and the rights given in the Act allow for works that would, in common law, not be legal.

By following the Party Wall Act, the rights are conveyed onto the person carrying out the works, known as the Building Owner.

What works fall under the Party Wall Act?

The works which fall under the Party Wall Act, and require the service of party wall notices, fall into three primary categories:

  1. Excavation close to an adjoining property and to a depth deeper than its foundations.
  2. Constructing new wall on the boundary with another property.
  3. Carrying out works directly to a party wall or structure.

Excavation close to an adjoining property

If you intend to excavate close to an adjoining property or structure, you will need to serve party wall notices when your proposed excavations meet the following criteria:

  1. They are within 3m of an adjoining structure and to a depth deeper than its foundations.
  2. They are within 6m of an adjoining structure and to a depth whereby a 45-degree line drawn downwards from the base of the adjoining property’s foundations would intersect with the proposed excavations. See Image 1.

When you intend to carry out excavations that meet these criteria, you must serve your neighbour with a valid party wall notice at least 1 month before the works start.

party wall act diagram showing section 6(2) excavation
Image 1 - Click to enlarge

New Wall on the Boundary Line

If you intend to build a new wall on the boundary line with another property where no wall currently exists, then you will need to serve your neighbour with a notice at least 1 month before the proposed works start.

There are two variations of party wall notice for these types of work, depending on where you intend to build the wall. They are:

  1. Building the wall astride the boundary, meaning that it is partly on your land and partly on the land of your neighbour.
  2. Building the wall up to the boundary line but entirely on your own land.

If you serve a notice on your neighbour under option 1 above, your neighbour must give written consent to you building the wall partly on their land, otherwise you must build it entirely on your own land.

In some circumstances it is beneficial for your neighbour to allow you to construct the wall astride the boundary, and partly on their own land. This is true where you neighbour may wish to subsequently make use of that wall in the future, for example, to form part of the enclosure of an extension they’re planning. By building the wall partly on their land it becomes a party wall, which both owners have the right to use.

Works directly to a party structure

If you intend to undertake work directly to a party wall or structure (i.e. a floor separating flats), then you will need to serve your neighbour with a party structure notice at least 2 months before the proposed works start.

Works covered under this section include:

  • Underpinning or raising a party wall.
  • Cutting away from a party, for example, to remove a chimney breast.
  • Carrying out repairs to a party wall.
  • Cutting into a party wall to insert a steel beam or flashing.
  • Demolishing and rebuilding a party wall.
  • Exposing a party wall which is currently enclosed.
  • Cutting into the wall of an adjoining property to insert a flashing or other weatherproofing.

The works covered in this part of the Party Wall Act can be complex, so it is best to get the advice of an experienced party wall surveyor.

How can my neighbours respond to party wall notices?

Once you have sent party wall notices to your neighbours they then have 14 days to respond to them either consenting or dissenting to the works.

It is important to point out that even if a neighbour dissents to the works, they cannot stop them from proceeding. 

In the event that your neighbour consents within 14 days, then you have discharged your obligations under the Act, and subject to any other regulatory requirements, you can proceed with the works contained in the notice.

In the event that you neighbour dissents, then you will both need to appoint surveyors to act on your behalf in preparing a Party Wall Award (sometimes called a Party Wall Agreement). This document will set out the matters in dispute and determine how and when the works can take place.

When appointing surveyors, there are two options available:

  1. Each owner appoints their own surveyor and the two surveyors will work together to agree the Party Wall Award.
  2. Both owners agree to share a single “Agreed Surveyor” who will act impartially on behalf of both owners in preparing a Party Wall Award.

What happens if my neighbour doesn't respond to a party wall notice?

If your neighour doesn’t respond to a notice within 14 days, then they are deemed to have automatically dissented and a party wall award will need to be prepared.

After 14 days, you can send your neighbour a letter advising them that they have 10 days to appoint surveyor to act on their behalf. If they fail to appoint a surveyor within 10 days, you can appoint a surveyor to act for them. At this point, the two appointed surveyors will proceed to agree the party wall award. 

Note that if your neighbour doesn’t respond to a notice, you must appoint a surveyor to act for them, and this surveyor must not be the same surveyor you have appointed to act for yourself.

What will the party wall surveyors do?

Once the party wall sureyors have been appointed, they will undertake a schedule of condition of the neighbouring property which will act as a record of its condition before the works start. This document will protect both owners in the event of damage occurring, or claims of damage occuring.

Once they have completed the schedule of condition, they will then agree the party wall award. This document will set out any matters in dispute, and once completed and signed by the surveyors is legally binding on the owners.

Typically, the party wall award will set out the timings and manner of the notifiable works, and any other works connected with them.

Once the party wall award has been served, there is a 14 day period in which to challenge it in the County Court. After this 14 day period, its contents are binding on both parties.

What happens after the award is served?

Once the award is served, the surveyors have effectively completed their role. However, they can be called in again to resolve further disputes that may arise, for example as a result of damage occurring, or a change in design.

RICS Regulated Party Wall Surveyors

Speak to a Party Wall Surveyor

If you have a project that you think may need notices to be served under the Party Wall Act, or you have received notices from a neighbour, contact us to speak to an experienced RICS party wall surveyor for free impartial advice.

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Party Wall FAQs

Below are answers to some of the questions we are most commonly asked about Party Wall matters.

The Party Wall Act, formally known as The Party Wall etc. Act 1996, is a piece of legislation that gives owners of buildings and land the rights to carry out certain types of works subject to serving party wall notices.

The works covered by the act relate to the construction of a new wall on or at the boundary with another property, excavation works near an adjoining structure or works directly to a party wall or structure.

The Act applies to all properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK Government has produced a useful party walls explanatory booklet, which gives a detailed overview of the Act.

The Act has primary purposes:

  • To enable owners to carry out certain types of construction work whilst protecting the rights of the neighbours, and
  • To avoid or reduce disputes relating to such work.

The Act sets out a process for resolving any disputes, and this is achieved by the formation of a Party Wall Award, sometimes called a party wall agreement. The award will agree any matters in dispute and stipulate how and when the works must be carried out.

If you intend to carry out works to your property, the Party Wall act defines you as the Building Owner. A Building Owner has a statutory duty to serve written party wall notices to all affected neighbours.

You need to serve party wall notices, when you intend on carrying out works which fall under three main categories:

  • Building new walls on the boundary line with another property.
  • Excavating close to an adjoining structure.
  • Works directly to a shared party wall or structure, such as inserting steel beams or removing a chimney breast.

If you intend to carry out any of the above, you will likely need to serve party wall notices on your neighbours.

If you are in any doubt about whether your works are notifiable under the Party Wall Act, we have created a table listing all the notifiable works, and this is located further down this page.

If you are in any doubt as to whether your works are notifiable, contact our RICS Chartered Party Wall Surveyors for free advice.

If your neighbour has started work without a party wall agreement (award), you can apply to the County Court to obtain an injunction to stop the works from proceeding until the process outlined in the Act has been followed.

The courts take a dim view of owners who intentionally ignore the Party Wall Act, and if it can be shown that the Act has been ignored, and no notices were served, you are very likely to be granted the injunction. However, the first action should be to inform your neighbour that you believe their works are notifiable under the Party Wall Act and that they should serve you with notice. It may well be the case that they didn’t know about the legislation in the first place.

If you are not comfortable talking to your neighbour, you can speak to a party wall surveyor, who can send a letter to your neighbor informing them that they have not followed the process in the Act and advising them of their obligations.

It may be the case that an owner only becomes aware that they need a party wall agreement (award) after they have completed the party wall works. In this case, they may want to find out about getting a party wall agreement after the works are complete, however, under the Party Wall Act there are no provisions for this. 

The Party Wall Act cannot be applied retrospectively, and therefore once the works are complete, it is too late. 

Essentially, the Act is there to protect the interests of both owners, so if there has been no damage to your property as a result of the works then there is little reason for concern. However, if you believe damage has ocurred to your property as a result of the works, then you can engage a surveyor to carry out a report on the damage to try to identify whether it was caused by the works. This can then be used to prompt your neighbour to make good the damage, or if necessary, as evidence in court.

It is worth noting that when the Party Wall Act is followed, it is for the adjoining owner to prove that any damage to their property was caused by the works, whereas if the Act is not followed, it is on the person who carried out the work to prove that the damage was not caused by them. This is effectively a reversed burden of proof, and it can be difficult and expensive to prove that your work didn’t cause damage.

It is for the above reasons that it is always recommended that you have a schedule of condition carried out of the adjoining owner’s propery before the works start to protect both owners, and make resolving any claims of damage considerably easier. 

In most circumstances, the fees for party wall surveyors will be paid by the owner undertaking the works. This includes the fees of any surveyors appointed by their neighbours.

This is because the adjoining owner is seen as an innocent bystander who would not have to go through the party wall process were it not for their neighbour carrying out the works. Additionally, it is the owner carrying out the works that stands to benefit from them, and so they pay the party wall surveyors fees, just like the fees for other consultants such as architects, engineers, and planners.

There may be cases where an adjoining owner requests additional works are carried out, or where the works are being carried out as a result of the adjoining owner failing to undertake maintenance. In these cases, the apportionment of the party wall surveyors’ fees will be determined by the party wall agreement (Award).

The cost of a party wall surveyor depends on the complexity of the work being carried out, and how much time it will take them to deal with the matter.

Many party wall surveyors charge on an hourly rate basis, whereas others will provide fixed-fees for their services.

At Murrins, when we act on behalf of the owner carrying out the work, we always provide a fixed fee quote for party wall surveying services.

Typically, in London and the South East, you can expect to pay between £800 – £2,000 +VAT for a surveyor to act on your behalf providing a full party wall service, including schedule of condition and party wall award.

It is also important to bear in mind that you will likely be responsible for the fees of any surveyors appointed by your neighbours, as well as your own party wall surveyor’s costs.

We offer a free party wall surveyor quotation to all clients, so for an exact cost, please contact us.

Our Party Wall Services

Our RICS Party Wall Surveyors provide a complete party wall service.
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Building Owners

If you plan to undertake construction work near another property, you may be required to server party wall notices under the Party Wall etc. Act? Our experienced RICS surveyors can help.

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Adjoining Owners

Have you received a party wall notice from a neighbour? Or are your neighbours undertaking work that you think may be covered by the Party Wall Act? We can help.

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Schedule of Condition

A detailed schedule of condition safeguards your property by providing a details record of the condition of your property before the works start.

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Party Wall Award

Expert party wall awards (agreements) prepared by experienced RICS Chartered party wall surveyors throughout London and the South East.

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Want to know more about Party Wall Surveying?

The RICS has produced consumer guidance covering the Party Wall etc. Act. The guidance is written in layman’s terms and gives an overview of the rights and obligation of the Party Wall Act.

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